December 1, 2020; MarketWatch
Childcare advocates are cautiously hopeful that the field, which has been harmed greatly by the pandemic, may get some bipartisan attention in the form of financial support once President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. Although childcare was singled out for specific aid in the first round of CARES Act funding, the $3.5 billion provided did not touch the need of providers, many of whom suffered through months of closure and a devastated business model once they were allowed to reopen. Some simply went under; others have been operating at low capacity and increased cost due to safety requirements. This, in turn, affects the ability of families to work when and if they do feel comfortable leaving their children mid-pandemic in a congregate setting.
Biden, however, has a plan that would fund childcare over 10 years to the tune of $335 billion:
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- Free universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds
- Better wages and benefits for childcare workers, including training and professional development
- A refundable tax credit of up to $8,000 to help low-income and middle-class families pay for childcare
- Sliding-scale subsidies so no family earning below 1.5 times the median income in their state would have to pay more seven percent of their income for “quality” childcare.
Biden’s childcare plan is part of a $775 billion “caregiving proposal” that would also encompass care for seniors, people with disabilities, and military veterans. All of this would be paid for by “rolling back unproductive and unequal tax breaks for real-estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and taking steps to increase tax compliance for high-income earners.” There’s a possibility this large package will end up divided into far smaller, less comprehensive ones.
A First Five Years Fund poll conducted right after the 2018 midterm elections found “voters on both sides of the aisle see quality childcare as a rare, unifying policy issue.” A new poll conducted this year found that 76 percent of voters in swing states want the federal government to provide funding to improve their childcare programs.
Carrie Gillispie, a senior policy analyst at the Education Trust, a nonprofit that works to advance educational equity, especially for low-income children and children of color, thinks this is a moment for childcare to reinvent itself. “If we can demonstrate with this extra funding what’s possible, and how much it would improve everyone’s lives and the economy, that could be an impetus for long-term and more robust investment,” she says. “We just have to hope that people remember how difficult work was when they were at home trying to be early childhood educators themselves.”—Ruth McCambridge